COLUMBUS, Ohio – It was approximately one month into his freshman year at Ohio State that Marcus Baugh’s need for maturation became evident.
On July 14, 2013, Baugh was arrested for underage drinking and possession of a fake ID. That’s a darn good way to get into Urban Meyer’s doghouse. Want to extend your stay there? Get arrested again six months later for the same offense. That second offense earned Baugh a two-game suspension at the start of the 2014 season. In April of 2015, Baugh — who committed to Ohio State in the summer of 2012 without ever visiting Columbus — admitted he was considering leaving the school and seeking a fresh start.
“I’m thinking about what I can do, if I can even transfer and stuff like that,” Baugh told the media last April. “Definitely after my second incident, I thought I was gone.”
Urban Meyer didn’t mince words about Baugh, either. There was work to be done.
“Marcus had some issues,” he said. “He’s one foot in, one foot out right now. His effort has been really good. He’s trying to do things the right way. But to say he’s out of the woods? No.”
It appears that now — after three tumultuous years at Ohio State — the path may finally be clear. Ed Warinner, who now coaches the tight ends for the Buckeyes, told the media on Tuesday that Baugh had some serious growing up to do when he began his collegiate career.
“Marcus has really made tremendous progress,” Warinner said following Tuesday’s practice. “When he came here as a freshman from California, he had a culture shock — an adjustment to make there — he had to physically grow up, and mentally and emotionally get used to being away from home.
“He’s done that. It’s been a transition for him and he’s made great progress. Last year he gave us a lot of quality reps, and he’s continuing to improve. He’s had a good camp so far. We expect him to do a lot of good things for us because he’s a talented individual.”
As the only veteran at tight end — Ohio State lists five tight ends on their roster, redshirt freshman A.J. Alexander and three true freshmen (Jake Hausmann, Luke Farrell, and Kierre Hawkins) — one area the Buckeyes need Baugh to step up at is in the locker room. He’s got to be the leader among a group of talented, but unproven, teammates. That includes teaching what the Buckeyes expect on and off the field.
“Marcus is quiet by nature, but in our small group — the tight ends — he does a great job with the young tight ends, talking to them, leading them, trying to help them understand the right way, the Buckeye way, to do things,” Warinner said. “I think he’s grown a lot in that. I think he wants to pass that on to the young guys that ‘Hey, you don’t have to make some of the mistakes I’ve made in the past in order to learn, learn from me.’ “
For the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Baugh to emerge as a leader, he’s first got to be a follower. He is trying to follow the path that NFL draft picks Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett laid out for him.
“Yeah,” Baugh said when asked how he can emerge as “the man” for the Buckeyes at tight end. “I mean, I’m just following the footsteps of the people that were in front of me. They set a good example, so I’m just trying to do the same thing. I’m right there where they were, trying to do what they did with me and teach the young guys.”
So far so good it appears, as the Buckeyes young tight ends have already begun stepping up and putting themselves in a position to play.
“They’re all coming along great,” Baugh said of the three freshmen. “They know more than I did when I was a freshman. They actually do know a lot. I don’t really have to tell them anything, just a few things here and there. I’ve just got to get them to where if something happens and they have to go in, that they’ll be ready.”
For Ohio State’s offense to reach its potential this fall, though, it’s still going to be Baugh — who recorded seven receptions on 11 targets in the Buckeyes’ spring game in April — who steps up. He’s always had the physical tools to be a difference maker in the offense and now he’s got the maturity to handle, and deserve, the added workload.
“Our No. 1 objective is to get the ball to playmakers,” Warinner said when asked if he — as the play-caller — will focus on his own group more than usual. “As we develop this offense and go through training camp, we’re trying to find out who the consistent playmakers are. Marcus has shown he can be one.”